The complex multiplicity of groups described under "Identification" was already coexisting in the northern and northeastern Transvaal by the end of the eighteenth century, and some concentration of political authority was already in place. In the course of their migrations into and around this area, clusters of people from diverse origins had come to center themselves around a series of dikgoro (sing. kgoro ), or ruling nuclear groups. The people clustered together in this way identified themselves through their shared symbolic allegiance to an animal, sometimes called a totem in the literature— tau (lion), kolobe (pig), kwena (porcupine), and others. The Maroteng or Pedi, with their symbolic animal noko (porcupine), were an offshoot of the Tswana-speaking Kgatla. By about 1650, they had settled in an area to the south of the Steelpoort River and of their present heartland. Here, over several generations of interaction, a degree of linguistic and cultural homogeneity developed. It was only in the latter half of the eighteenth century that they extended control over the region, establishing the Pedi paramountcy by bringing powerful neighboring chiefdoms under their sway.
Pedi power, at its height during Thulare's reign (about 1790—1820), was undermined during the period of the difaqane by Ndwandwe invaders from the southeast. A period of dislocation followed, after which the polity was reestablished under Thulare's son Sekwati, who engaged in numerous negotiations and struggles for control over land and labor with the Boers who had subsequently settled in the region. Sekwati's success in these struggles, and later that of his heir, Sekhukhune I, owed in part to the firepower enjoyed by the polity, purchased with the proceeds of early labor migration to the diamond fields of Kimberley. During this period, the power of the Pedi paramountcy was entrenched through the insistence that the chiefs of groups subordinate to the Pedi take their principal wives from the ruling dynasty. A system of cousin marriage resulted, which perpetuated hierarchical marriage links between ruler and ruled, and which involved the paying of inflated bride-wealth to the Maroteng house.
By the 1870s, the Pedi represented one of three alternative sources of regional authority, alongside the Swazi and the ZAR (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek) that the Boers had established. Intensifying struggles between Boers and Pedi over land and labor resulted in the war of 1876, in which the Boer aggressors suffered a resounding defeat. British annexation of the Transvaal followed in 1877, partly spurred by the Boers' failure to subjugate the Pedi. The defeat of the Pedi was finally accomplished by British troops under the command of Sir Garnet Wolslely in 1879.
The Berlin Missionary Society established the first mission to the Pedi, west of the Leolo Mountains, in 1861. Resistance from Sekhukhune led a missionary named Merensky to establish a village for converts, Botshabelo ("the place of refuge"), to the southwest of the polity, from which several groups of independent Christians later left to purchase land and found their own communities, independent of both paramount and missionaries. Here Christian Pedi continued living until they were forcibly removed into the Pedi reserve during the 1960s and 1970s, in the interests of "ethnic consolidation." In more recent times, Catholic, Anglican, and Dutch Reformed missionaries have been active.